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Can An SEO Campaign Succeed Without a Link Building Strategy?

Can An SEO Campaign Succeed Without a Link Building Strategy?

So, you've bought a domain. You've built your website. Now you're sitting around waiting for the traffic to come. The problem is that you haven't gotten any links to your website. You might be ranking for some things, but you're not getting a ton of traffic. Let's take a look to see if an SEO strategy is feasible without link building.

No Links? You'll Need An Aged Domain

SEO Gone Wild is nothing impressive when it comes to links and rankings. We have a DA of 6 (accurate at the time of this blog post when it was written). We bought this domain because it seemed like a "cool" domain, well before we knew what we were doing. This website was first indexed by Google in 2013. We got even luckier because it had been an e-commerce store built on Open Cart that sold SEO services. Back in the day, SEO services sold in e-commerce store had pictures on the products that looked like the name of the service had been photoshopped onto a TurboTax box.When we bought this domain, we got one DA30+ backlink from some random vendor. The value of that link has since depreciated. And to be 100% totally transparent, we don't have a whole lot going on in terms of backlinks (accurate at the time this blog was written).

You will need to find easy-to-rank for keywords and make lots of pages on your website for them

You need to find VERY easy keywords. Here is an example from SEMrush of "very easy keywords."

Those green dots mean that these are all easy keywords. We found that one of our target keywords, "affordable SEO," became infinitely easier to rank for with a location modifier: "affordable SEO Katy," "affordable SEO Bend," "affordable SEO San Diego," etc. In fact, we took a list of the biggest cities in the United States with a certain percentage of small businesses. Generally speaking, these keywords have search volumes in the 20 to 150 range. They are easy to rank for and they are easy to rank for quickly. Look what happened to our search console in the weeks after we added those pages.

This approach is very labor intensive. We had to make over 200 manual pages optimized for each city to rank for these search terms and start getting impressions. There was a spike in traffic early on, but clicks have thinned out.

"Optimize Your Website"

We put figurative air quotes around this one because it's largely bullshit. You can optimize your title tags, write long form content, and make sure that your keywords are used in your headline tags. But it's still going to be hard to rank on the first page. 

Can You Rank Without Backlinks?

The short answer is "Yes, you can rank without backlinks." But you do need some backlinks. Here is what we have found. Sometimes, if you use the shotgun approach with long-tail easy keywords it does work. 

 

This is a screenshot of our competitor who ranks #1 for "affordable SEO chicago." His ranking page has six referring domains and his main URL has over 100 referring domains. Here is another one of our competitors for "affordale SEO San Diego." 

Her website has over 630 referring domains and her ranking page has 7 referring domains. Now here is where it gets interesting:

  • Not all of our competitors have more referring domains than we do. We offset those websites in smaller markets by having LONGER content on the page.
  • Our website has a LITTLE bit of an advantage because it's an aged domain.
  • We also have perfectly optimized pages for "affordable SEO" + location.

We're going to rank WELL for long tail, low-volume keywords. Go back to that huge spike in impressions. We actually have second and third page rankings for most cities with the shorter tail keywords, we just don't have the links to support them. But, we get clients who find us via organic search because they are looking for affordable SEO. 

But eventually, we are going to need to start an aggressive link building strategy.